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MONTREAL, MARCH 26, 2007- The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) will hold its sixth Volunteer Appreciation Evening on Wednesday, April 18 at Le Crystal (5285 Henri Bourassa West) in St. Laurent. This year's event is being held during National Volunteer Week.

This year's Volunteer of Distinction is Penny Fenwick. She has been volunteering at Willingdon Elementary School in N.D.G. for 37 years. It began when her two children attended classes there. She initially helped out in the library and assisted some children with their reading. However, virtually all of her time has been spent in the area of tutoring. She spends two mornings a week at the school working with students who need help with math, spelling and reading. "I just love it," she says. "When my kids went on to high school, I still had a connection with the school and the teachers so I stayed on. And I have no intention of leaving."

Global TV's This Morning Live will feature a live broadcast from Willingdon on Wed. April 11, with reports at 7:40 a.m., 8:10 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. Ms. Fenwick will be interviewed and shown working with students.

"This is a wonderful honour," said Ms. Fenwick. "But I feel that itís too soon, because I hope to continue volunteering at Willingdon for many more years."

A native of the Peace River region in Alberta, Ms. Fenwick graduated from the University of Alberta with of Bachelor of Commerce degree, and from there, worked as a field director for a market research firm.

When she started her volunteer work at Willingdon Ė where both her children were students - she began in the library. "It was 30 years ago that (then Willingdon principal) Ms. Johnson asked if I could tutor students in reading and then French on a part-time basis," said Ms. Fenwick. That simple request blossomed into a continuous, long term stint as the school's resident math and spelling tutor. Every Tuesday and Thursday, from 8:15 a.m. until 1 p.m., Ms. Fenwick tutors eight students a day in math or spelling. She tutors each child on a one-to-one basis and uses a wide variety of methods to make sure they have a better understanding of the subject.

"I love tutoring, especially math," she says. "Whenever a student starts to see me, they usually have a negative attitude towards math. I find out what's not working for them and I try to make it easier for them to understand it, by using certain tricks so that they can develop both a visual and oral understanding. If one way doesnít work, I'll find another way. As a result, they end up liking math and do well in class. The teachers tell me that they see another benefit to it, as it spills over into other subjects, where their marks also show a lot of improvement. I find that very gratifying."

Ms. Fenwick even has her own private classroom to conduct her tutoring, which is appropriately called "Penny's Room." As she says, "Beforehand, I would tutor in any available room in the school, even in the hallways," she said.

Three years ago, two teachers were asked to do a massive clean-up of one of the book storage rooms and convert it into a space where Ms. Fenwick could hold her tutoring sessions in a proper, welcoming setting, which was officially dedicated as "Penny's Room" by then-principal John Roumeliotis with a plaque unveiling ceremony.

Ms. Fenwick also enjoys the fact that through her tutoring, she manages to build strong bonds with the students. "Over the years, I have developed a nice relationship with the students and they have become quite receptive to me," she said. "They are always able to talk to me whenever they have problems, whether it be at home or in school."

Principal Ivana Colatriano enthusiastically agrees with Ms. Fenwick's contribution to the school. "Penny is a constant presence in our school. She is extremely selfless, always smiling and is always giving her time and talents to the school, and is very good at what she does. In fact, she is the essence of true volunteerism," she said.

Ms. Colatriano cites one example of the impact she has had with the students she has tutored over the years. "In the middle of the 2005-2006 school year, we got a new student named David, and he arrived here not knowing anyone. Penny decided to take him under her wing and continued to work with him throughout the remainder of the year. She made David feel welcome, and as a result, it made a difference for him, especially when it came to his learning and his integration into student life here at Willingdon."

Sitting at her desk in a cozy corner of "Penny's Room", surrounded by pictures of past and present students that she has worked with, Ms. Fenwick marvels at how lucky she has been to do something that she enjoys immensely as a volunteer at Willingdon School for the past 37 years. "I guess Iíll do this for as long as I can," she happily added.

Time and space will not allow the EMSB to honour all of its nearly 1,500 volunteers in person. Therefore, only those individuals who have volunteered for more than five years will attend the reception, representing some 500 people. However, several thousand copies of a commemorative program book will be distributed to each school.

Gardenview Elementary School's choir will be the musical guests. Everyone on hand will get a CD containing a compilation of their songs. Global Television anchor Jamie Orchard and 940Montreal business editor Luciano Pipia will return as the emcees.

First Canadian Financial Services ( and TransAmerica Life Canada, specialists in Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs), will once again be the title sponsors of event. The theme is You Light Up Our Schools First Canadian's president, Joseph Afshar, will serve as the evening's honourary chairman. An Education Savings Plan (ESP) is a vehicle generally used by parents to save for their children's post-secondary education. Mr. Afshar and his team meet regularly with EMSB parent groups and provide free consultations.

A community-minded company, in addition to RESPs, First Canadian Financial Services specializes in the sale of: retirement, estate and tax planning; mutual funds; life, disability and critical illness insurance; annuities; Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF), savings plans and mortgages. Parents who would like to reach Mr. Afshar directly can call 484-1867 or log on to

Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213